USC, UCLA debut in Top 20 in first College Football Playoff rankings

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Trojans and Bruins are in the Top 20 of the College Football Playoff rankings.

LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Selection committee released its first rankings of the 2023 season. USC came in at No. 20 in the initial rankings.

The Trojans, who currently sit at 7-2 on the season, are coming off of a thrilling 50-49 victory over Cal this past weekend. The win ended a two-game losing streak for USC after they fell to Notre Dame and Utah the prior two weeks.

The Fighting Irish and Utes—both of whom also have two losses on the season—ranked No. 15 and No. 18, respectively. They are the only two currently ranked teams that USC has played to date. However, the Trojans’ final three regular contests will all come against ranked opponents. USC hosts No. 5 Washington at the Coliseum this Saturday, before traveling to face No. 6 Oregon on the road the following week, and then wrapping up the season at home against No. 19 UCLA.

This was the first of six weekly rankings put out by the College Football Playoff Committee this season. The final rankings will be released on Sunday, December 3, and will determine the College Football Playoff field.

Branch out for season

Yesterday, head coach Lincoln Riley announced after practice that redshirt freshman safety Zion Branch will miss the remainder of the season.

Riley did not disclose the nature of the injury. However, he did say that Branch underwent a procedure Tuesday morning.

The older brother of speedy true freshman wide receiver Zachariah Branch, Zion Branch arrived on-campus as a top-100 recruit in the class of 2022. However, an ACL injury kept him off the field for his entire first season on campus.

With redshirt senior safety Max Williams also dealing with injuries, the Trojans will have to heavily rely on junior All-American Calen Bullock and redshirt senior Bryson Shaw at the position down the stretch.

Kirk’s Coliseum farewell

No. 20 USC’s matchup with No. 5 Washington at the Coliseum this Saturday will kick off at 4:30 PM PDT. The game will be televised by ABC.

ESPN’s lead college football broadcasting team of play-by-play announcer Chris Fowler, analyst Kirk Herbstreit, and sideline reporter Holly Rowe will call the matchup. With the Trojans moving to the Big Ten next season and ESPN/ABC not a part of the conference’s new media rights deal, it will likely be the trio’s final trip to the Coliseum for the foreseeable future. However, they could still potentially call USC nonconference away/neutral site games—including the Trojans’ high-profile showdown with LSU in Las Vegas next year—as well as potential playoff/bowl games down the line.

For Fowler, it will be just his fourth time calling a USC game at the Coliseum, as he only took over as ESPN’s lead college football voice in 2014, as the Trojans were beginning to fall from national relevancy. However, Herbstreit has called numerous games at “The Greatest Stadium in the World”, dating back to the latter half of the Pete Carroll era.

Most recently, the duo called USC’s 38-27 triumph over Notre Dame at the Coliseum last season, when quarterback Caleb Williams essentially wrapped up the Heisman Trophy with his 267 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns.